Thriving after COVID-19
By TJ Lundeen / firstname.lastname@example.org
Recovering from the pause to everyday life caused by COVID-19 will be a demanding process. Incorporating the processes of working from home, social distancing, and restrictions on movement and travel will be key in the lives of employees, while employers and businesses will face a transition in returning to standard operations.
To be direct, for consumers, employees, and businesses, life after COVID-19 will be vastly different than before quarantine changed daily life.
The U.S. economy is made up of more than 30 million small businesses, representing every state and industry. While small businesses are a critical part of the economy and employ millions of people, a vast majority of those businesses were not prepared for the shutdown caused by COVID-19 and could be on the brink of closure in the coming months. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that “roughly 40% to 60% of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster.”
For those businesses preparing to reopen in a post-COVID-19 world, the changes that have happened – and will continue to occur – will shape the future of your company. Those changes range from how to bring back employees to how your budget will have to be altered to account for lost revenue.
Before bringing back full-scale operations, small businesses must start with a sound financial plan review, adjusting as needed to keep the doors open.
- Create a budget to get you through the end of Q2. Plan for what you know is right in front of your business and see what it will take to get there
- Reduce overhead, non-essential expenses, and cut back on staffing/payroll if needed. Slashing short-term expenses can help to keep your business running in the long-term
- Talk with your landlord, service providers, and lenders to see if there are any breaks or programs to help with late or missed payments. Any financial assistance your business can take advantage of is a great step toward recovery
- Be transparent with your customers about your ability to provide goods and services, any delays that may impact business and changes in operations. Create a communication plan that includes elements your audience expects from you like a newsletter or email blast. Be sure to utilize social media and your website and physical signage at your location to keep customers and suppliers in the loop.
- Inform customers, clients, and partners of the new policies and procedures taking place within your business.
- New protective measures will reassure customers
- Intensive training for employees will relieve pressure and stress from their return to work
- Increased offerings for customers to meet virtually, deliver goods to the parking lot or their homes, and social distancing measures in-store show your business is dedicated to serving their needs in a safe way
- Keep your staff in the loop to present a united front. Your employees are the front-line with customers and clients, ensure they are well-versed in your corporate policies. Reinforce policies on sickness or potential exposure to COVID-19. Cross-train employees to fill gaps where co-workers may not be able to perform duties
Marketing & Sales
- Budgets may be tight, but DON’T stop your marketing and sales efforts! One of the best ways to recover from the shutdown is to grow your customer base
- Consider creating discounts for large-scale orders who pay early for annual services or bundle services if possible. Even a slight discount of 3-5 percent will incentivize larger clients and customers to act quickly
- Reach your audience, but don’t overdo it. Try not to bombard your customers with multiple daily emails and a flurry of social media posts. Instead, shoot for your normal metrics that have important information and promotions to get your audience engaged again!
- Be on alert for predatory lenders, new suppliers, or businesses offering “too good to be true” deals. Scammers will try to appeal to businesses by offering free or ridiculous cost savings on goods or services; be wary of unknown or ill-repute businesses
- Consider your technology needs and what service providers you are using. Businesses may face disruptions to networks, data loss, new security vulnerabilities, or lapses in critical technologies due to unforeseen issues with providers
- Scale your staff slowly to avoid physical and financial risk. If your staff has been furloughed or removed, consider bringing back only the staff needed to maintain post-COVID operations, be those in a limited capacity or full-scale. Doing so reduces strain on your payroll and can keep your facility at a minimum should another shutdown or outbreak of the virus happen
- Take the initiative with your customers and clients. Reaching out to your regulars is easy in today’s connected society – do it! Drop a line to everyone who ordered from your business or everyone on your email list with a personal invitation or a welcome back to business.
- Find a way to integrate your newly adopted technology into your standard operations. Don’t abandon Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting now that you’re back in your facility. These platforms can be critical to keeping staff in the loop of operations and maybe a way to reach your customers.
- Invest in technologies to improve efficiencies and increase margins. If you’re back to operating with a smaller-than-normal crew or have some holes to fill now that you’ve picked up additional methods of contacting customers and employees, consider implementing technologies to fill the gap. A CRM can help maintain relationships with customers, automating your marketing can take one responsibility off your plate while making you money, and a new website can help relaunch your brand.
Life before quarantine saw consumers move in absolute freedom, with a quick run to the grocery store as mundane as a walk in the park. With the restrictions placed on much of the country, that trip to the grocery store became a much larger ordeal, having many essential items sold out and restrictions placed on the scarce amount of goods in the store.
Panic buying set in, causing consumers to attempt to appeal to their three basic needs: autonomy, or control; relatedness, or to do good for those we are in close contact with; and competence, or the feeling of doing something correctly. With the spread of misinformation about the length of quarantine and the availability of certain goods, hoarding became the storyline that plagued consumers.
In many ways, this time of lockdown changed the consumer base.
With no outlet for shopping in many physical stores, consumers turned to e-commerce via websites and applications to meet their needs. Companies set up with excellent processes in place to accommodate e-commerce consumers have fared better than those businesses that had to shut down entirely in the wake of lockdowns. According to the Tech Republic, e-commerce revenue is up 37 percent and orders are up 54 percent in the U.S., while parts of Europe and Asia have seen dramatic declines in e-commerce shopping during the time of shutdown.
Returning to operations following COVID-19 will not happen overnight, as many consumers face the new reality of the unknown surrounding the virus. With projections showing a vaccine will be unavailable into 2021, consumers have braced for a new normal that includes increased reliance on technology for basic goods and services.
To better serve the post-coronavirus consumer, businesses will have to adapt and offer more flexibility in the delivery of goods, services, and experiences. Creating a consumer-first digital experience via mobile-friendly websites and applications is a first step to reaching a more cautious consumer base.
Employees started a new decade with a quick and dramatic halt to everyday operations for many industries. Everything that could be done in a remote capacity quickly transitioned that way, leaving your employee base to go from sitting at their desk, performing their job functions as they always have, to carving out a home office, and learning a new technology for meetings.
The changes have been drastic.
While your employees will probably be the first to say the changes were tough, but being able to continue to work and provide for their families was a top priority, another transition is in the works as businesses turn from remote work back to more traditional operations.
What is the mindset of the employee as their world again faces a shakeup?
- What are the new policies and procedures that will affect my daily work life?
- Are there any resources available to help in this transition?
- If I’ve had COVID-19, can I return to work?
- What protective equipment is available for me?
- If I’m not ready to come back to the office, what are my options?
For any operation, its biggest and best resource is the people it employs, so they have to be a top priority in the return to standard operations. From adapting to the new normal to adding new and different technologies into their daily tasks, employees need time to adjust to the increased demands placed upon them. Ensuring consistent and clear communication by establishing an Executive Recovery Team will help employees be prepared to come back to work in a well-thought-out and structured way.
The world is a different place than it was just a few long months ago. Whether your business has continued to hum along during the shutdown or has hit pause on normal operations, adapting to a post-COVID-19 world will take a team effort.
Incorporating new technologies into your normal business practices, creating a new brand identity via a new logo or website, or simply adjusting your business practices and current technologies to stretch your investment are all possibilities for your relaunch. Ask Archetype SC to see how we can help your business rebound in 2020.